Greece in full lockdown
Those who do not obey the restrictions will be fined 150 euroSvetoslav Stefanov
Empty streets, reduced public transportation, checking points at the city entrances, suspended flights, few ferries to the islands. That was the picture in Greece on Monday after the government announced full lockdown in attempt to reduce the further spread of the coronavirus. “We have to protect the common good, our health,” PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis said while announcing the measures. He pointed out that the lockdown is “perhaps the last step of an organised, democratic state.”
Under the new rule, only those going to or from their workplace, shopping for food or medicine, visiting a doctor or pharmacy, taking brief exercise or walking their pet will be allowed to leave their homes. People returning to their permanent places of residence will also be exempt, he said, as will those who are unable to do banking transactions online or have serious family obligations.
In a press conference later on Sunday, government officials clarified that, under the new restrictions, citizens planning to leave the house must inform authorities of the reason for their exodus. They have three options: either filling in a special form on the government website forma.gov.gr, sending an SMS to the number 13033 or explaining their reason in a signed personal declaration that can be written on a simple piece of paper. All citizens must IDs or passports. Any violation of these rules will carry a 150-euro fine.
In a televised address to the nation on Sunday evening, Mitsotakis explained that ban applies to “all unnecessary movement by citizens.” “We should not reach the point of having to choose who lives and who dies,” he pointed out and thanked the majority of Greeks for acting responsibly and self-isolating to avert the spread of the virus. “But I will not allow a frivolous few to undermine the safety of the majority because a few irresponsible people can harm thousands of responsible citizens,” he stressed following reports of many Greeks leaving cities for their villages over the weekend.
Meanwhile there are growing concerns about the healthcare system’s ability to cope with the situation. One worry is that the frequency with which doctors, nurses and administrative staff at hospitals are testing positive for the virus is growing, with dozens positive for Covid-19 and more than 300 in isolation.
Separately, Greek hoteliers warned that the tourism sector, which makes up around a quarter of the economy, faced a "general disaster" if lockdowns linked to the coronavirus pandemic stretched beyond May. "None of us want to consider that we will not be working after May," Grigoris Tassios, head of the Hellenic hoteliers federation, told state TV ERT. "If this happens we are heading towards general disaster, not only for the [tourism] sector but for the national economy," he said.
Last week Greece's tourism ministry ordered a temporary shutdown until the end of April of full-time hotels to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The ministry said 3 hotels apiece would be allowed to operate in Athens and Thessaloniki, and one per regional capital. The Hellenic chamber of hotels this week said it calculated a 522-million-euro blow to the tourism season because of the virus.
"It's going to be a very difficult year," Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis told Open TV on Friday, adding that the sector was still trying to recover from the collapse of British travel giant Thomas Cook in September. "To protect hotel staff, the government has decided to suspend the operation of all-year hotels to the end of April," the ministry said.
The merchant marine ministry has also banned travel to the Greek islands for all but permanent residents as of 21 March. And the interior ministry warned Greeks against rushing to the countryside, where local health centres are inadequate to handle virus cases.